Rum Cake

This rum cake is doused in a butter-rum syrup that makes this cake moist and bursting with flavor. Serve it for a birthday party, a dinner party, or any time you need cake!

Pouring rum sauce on a rum bundt cake set on a cake stand.
Marta Rivera

This rum pound cake was one of my late mother's favorite desserts. It was a recipe that I picked up during my many visits to Puerto Rico, and it became a monthly treat for our family. 

Instead of sweetening this all-butter cake only with sugar, I started adding a good portion of honey to complement the aged rum's heady flavor.

It’s loved in our family because it has one of the most delicate crumbs of any cake I make, it's fairly easy to make, and I usually have all of its ingredients on hand. Try it and I'm positive it will become a favorite in your home too.

How to Make Rum Cake

The key to creating that delicate (or tender) crumb I mentioned earlier is properly mixing the fat and sugars together to develop small air cells. These cells provide the rum cake's texture and give it a little bit of rise.

Because too much gluten makes cakes tough, using cake flour is ideal. It's low in gluten and it minimizes the chance of us developing too much of it while mixing the cake batter.

The cake flour and baking powder are sifted 3 times to aerate the flour and combine them. Aerating the flour helps create a cake that bakes up lighter and fluffier. The wet and dry ingredients are added alternately to create a harmonious balance between normally unmixable fat and liquid. Take your time, and don’t rush. It’s worth it.

Remove the cake from the oven when just a few crumbs stick to a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake, which usually takes just under an hour.

Pour part of the butter-rum syrup over the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. The cake is more apt to soak up the syrup while its hot, without growing soggy and the syrup caramelizes ever so slightly when it hits the hot pan. The remaining syrup is poured after you remove the cake from the pan. You can also reserve it to pour on just before serving the cake.

Homemade rum cake cut into slices on a cake stand.
Marta Rivera

Why Use Honey in Rum Cake? 

I started adding honey to this Rum Cake because it was just so darn tasty. I mean, is there a better reason than that? 

But, whenever I was out of honey and made it with just sugar, I realized that honey, an invert sugar, helps retain moisture in the cake, making it super moist. So, even more reason to add it. Not only does it keep the cake moist longer, but the flavor of the honey also complements the caramel, oaky notes of the rum.

I use regular honey, but feel free to experiment with different honey flavors. Wildflower, salted, or even spiced honey would add a more unique flavor to this cake. 

 Tips and Tricks for Making Rum Cake

Here are a few tips and tricks for you to make the best cake possible!

  • Use a baking spray that contains flour to make greasing and releasing your pan easier. 
  • A 12-15 cup Bundt pan is perfect for this recipe. 
  • Grease the measuring cup with the butter wrapper to prevent the honey from sticking.
  • Use a rum that you would drink in a cocktail. Though I've indulged in my fair share of gut-rot rums, this isn't the recipe to use a bottom-shelf rum in. 
  • Turning the cake out of the pan 5 minutes after removing it from the oven is key to avoiding patches on the exterior of your cake. 
Side view of a piece of rum cake on a plate with a fork.
Marta Rivera

Can Kids Eat Rum Cake? 

This cake isn't completely alcohol-free, but it's on par with vanilla extract's alcohol content. Burning off alcohol at the beginning and baking the cake helps reduce a percentage of alcohol. That said, the flavor will be left behind, so that's something to consider if you plan to serve it to children or to someone abstaining from alcohol. 

Be careful when igniting the rum. I light mine with a long-stemmed lighter or a long matchstick. Keep cabinets, hair, clothing, or body parts clear of the flame as well. 

Because you lose some liquid volume while burning off the alcohol, this recipe calls for  more than is used in the actual cake and syrup. If you don't plan to burn off any of the alcohol, decrease the amount of rum to 1 1/2 cups. If you don’t, the cake batter will not only taste boozier, but it will be runnier, which could lead to a longer bake time.

Swaps and Subs

Rum Cake is easy to adapt to what what you have on hand. Here are a few ideas to make this recipe work for you.

  • You can omit the honey altogether and use 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar. The finished cake won't be as moist, though.
  • Use gold, dark, or spiced rum in place of the aged rum for alternative rum flavors. 
  • If you don't have cake flour, make your own at home:
  • Measure 3 1/2 level cups (448g) of all-purpose flour into a bowl
  • Add 1/2 cup (60g) of cornstarch into the same bowl
  • Sift the all-purpose flour and cornstarch together with the baking powder
  • If you don't have salted butter to use in the butter-rum syrup, just use unsalted butter and add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the pot with the liquids.
  • You can also omit the salt altogether. The taste may be a little bland, but it won’t be a massive difference.
Rum bundt cake on a cake stand.
Marta Rivera

Ways to Enjoy Rum Cake

  • For something fancier, lightly toast slices of this cake in a pan with a little butter and serve it sprinkled with toasted coconut and a drizzle of pineapple jelly.
  • A favorite way to serve this cake is as a sundae: topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, warm dulce de leche, and whipped cream.
  • Plain is never too plain when it comes to this cake. I highly recommend enjoying it as is. 

How to Store Rum Cake

The great thing about this rum pound cake is that it doesn't require refrigeration. In fact, I don't recommend putting it in the fridge at all since it makes the cake stale faster. Keep it at room temperature for 3 days covered by a cloche (cake dome) or wrapped in plastic film. 

You can also wrap the cooled cake (or any leftovers) really well and freeze it for 2 months.

Rum cake with butter-rum syrup cut into slices with a slice on a plate.
Marta Rivera

More Irresistible Pound Cake Recipes

Rum Cake

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 55 mins
Total Time 75 mins
Servings 12 to 14 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (480ml) aged rum, divided
  • For the rum cake
  • 4 cups (500g) cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon (13g) baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (227g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (225g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (170g) honey
  • 1 teaspoon (6g) kosher salt
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • For the butter-rum syrup
  • 3/4 cup (225g) honey
  • 1/2 cup (113g) salted butter, sliced
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Special Equipment
  • 12-15 cup Bundt pan

Method

  1. Burn off most of the rum's alcohol:

    Set a wide, deep pot or pan (one that isn’t a non-stick ), over low heat. Add the rum and cook for 1 minute. Use a long matchstick or lighter to ignite the rum in the pot by bringing the flame close to the surface of the rum.

    If you prefer not to ignite the rum, you will need to simmer this on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Allow the flame burn without moving the pot. As the flame burns, it will go from an invisible or blue color to an orange color. The pot's sides will grow very hot, and the rum may sizzle on the sides and caramelize slightly; this is normal.

    After 5 minutes of burning, carefully cover the pot with a lid for 30 seconds to smother the flame. Remove the pot from the stove and allow the rum to cool completely.

    Heating rum in pan to make a rum cake.
    Marta Rivera
  2. Preheat the oven and prepare the Bundt pan:

    Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C). Prepare a 12-15 cup Bundt pan by spraying it with a generous coating of baking spray or greasing the pan with butter and dusting it lightly with additional cake flour.

    A greased bundt pan for rum cake.
    Marta Rivera
  3. Sift the cake flour and baking powder:

    Fold a piece of parchment in half, then open it again. Set a large bowl next to the parchment paper. You will sift the flour and baking powder 3 times transferring it from the bowl to the parchment and back to the bowl. This aerates the flour and helps create a tender crumb.

    Set a fine mesh sieve over the bowl add the flour and baking powder to the sieve. Lightly tap the sieve against your hand to to sift the flour and let it fall through the sieve.

    Set the sieve onto the parchment, pour the sifted flour from the bowl into the sieve and sift again.

    Once you've sifted the flour, put the sieve back over the bowl. Pour the sifted flour from the parchment into the sieve and sift into the bowl.

    Set this aside while you begin mixing the cake. 

  4. Combine the milk, vanilla extract and 1/2 cup of rum:

    In a separate 1-quart measuring cup or small mixing bowl, combine the milk, vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup of the cooled rum. Set aside.

  5. Combine the butter, sugar, honey, and salt:

    In the bowl of your stand mixer, use the paddle attachment to beat together the unsalted butter, granulated sugar, honey, and kosher salt at low speed for 2 minutes. 

    Once the mixture is smooth, stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and paddle.

    Continue beating, this time at medium speed until the mixture is almost white in appearance and slightly fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and paddle halfway through this 3-minute mixing time. 

  6. Add the eggs:

    With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs to the bowl one at a time. Beat in each egg until it is no longer visible before adding the next one. 

    Once all of the eggs have been incorporated, stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and paddle. 

    Now, beat the mixture for 3 minutes on medium speed or until light and fluffy. 

  7. Alternate adding the wet and dry ingredients:

    With the mixer on low speed alternate adding the flour and the rum-milk mixture. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture beat for 30 seconds, then add 1/2 of the liquid mixture and beat for 30 seconds. Stop the mixture and scrape down the bowl and the paddle attachment

    Repeat this again: add 1/3 of the flour mixture and the remaining rum mixture. Scrape down the bowl and paddle. Then add the final third of the flour mixture.

    Blend the batter at low speed for an additional 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and use the spatula to fold the batter a few times by hand for 30 seconds. 

    Making the batter for a rum cake.
    Marta Rivera
  8. Bake the cake:

    Using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it level it with your spatula.

    Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake's ring comes out mostly clean. Minimal crumbs are ideal. The cake will have a crackled, deep brown crust and will have pulled away from the pan slightly.

    Batter in a bundt pan for a rum cake recipe.
    Marta Rivera
  9. Make the butter-rum syrup:

    Fifteen minutes before the cake is finished baking, prepare the butter-rum syrup.

    In a small pot, combine the remaining cup of rum, honey, salted butter, water, and vanilla extract.

    Bring this mixture up to a simmer over medium heat this should take about a minute, whisking to encourage the butter to melt and the syrup to combine.

    Allow the mixture to simmer, small bubbles that are gently breaking the surface of the liquid, for 1 minute, then turn the stove off. Allow the syrup to cool as the cake finishes baking.

    Whisking the butter rum sauce in a saucepan for a rum cake recipe.
    Marta Rivera
  10. Trim cake if needed or poke holes:

    Once the cake has finished baking, remove the pan from the oven. If a dome has developed, use a serrated knife to trim it off while the cake is still in the pan. Be careful not to burn yourself with the hot cake. If you don't need to trim the cake, use a toothpick to poke holes in it instead. 

    Cooling the bundt cake in the pan and leveling it out.
    Marta Rivera
  11. Pour syrup over the cake:

    Pour 1/2 cup of the butter-rum syrup over the still-hot cake, then allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes.

    Spooning rum sauce on the rum cake.
    Marta Rivera
  12. Remove cake from pan and add remaining syrup:

    Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet to catch the excess syrup and turn the cake out onto the rack. Allow it to cool for 10 minutes before pouring the remaining syrup over the cake.

    You can repurpose the syrup to serve with the individual slices later.

    Ladling rum sauce over top the cooling rum cake.
    Marta Rivera
  13. Serve:

    Allow the cake to cool completely or serve while warm. Enjoy it plain, with ice cream or whipped cream.

    Homemade rum cake cut into slices on a cake stand.
    Marta Rivera